As Delhi struggles to recover from the violence that claimed over 40 lives in the last week, one of the hate slogans that potentially fuelled the riots arrived in Kolkata today. Supporters of the BJP, marching in a procession to the rally that Union Home Minister Amit Shah addressed in the city this afternoon, were heard shouting the “goli maaro” (shoot them) slogan in the heart of Kolkata in the presence of the police.
Amit Shah did not mention the Delhi riots even once in his speech just as he had remained silent on the issue at his rally at Bhubaneswar on Friday despite the fact that the violence has prompted the opposition to demand the home minister’s resignation.
The “goli maaro” slogan earned notoriety in the Delhi poll campaign. Union Minister Anurag Thakur had, at a rally, shouted the first half of the slogan – “desh ke gaddaron ko” or the traitors of the country. The crowd responded with “goli maaro *** ko“. The complete slogan translates to a call to “shoot down traitors of the country”.
Video footage from the spot in Kolkata showed men, dressed in saffron and waving BJP flags, shouting the slogan. A policeman could be seen shepherding the crowd.
Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishk Banerjee, whom Amit Shah had attacked thrice in his speech, soon hit back.
Mr Shah, Bengal is better off without bigotry and hatred that BJP is trying to spread.
— Citizen Abhishek Banerjee (@abhishekaitc) March 1, 2020
The CPM and the Congress condemned the hate spewing slogan and demanded that Mamata Banerjee order the police to identify and arrest those who raised it.
CPM leader, Md Salim said, “We are not surprised or shocked by the slogans. If Mr Amit Shah comes to Kolkata, his ‘goli maaro‘ gang will also come along. Unfortunately, Mamata Banerjee’s police did not stop the slogans. We are going to court to demand action against the culprits.”
The CPM has also called for a “maha michhil” or protest march in Kolkata tomorrow on the issue.
Hate speech by a section of senior BJP leaders and ministers was seen as a key reason for the violence in Delhi that flared up earlier this week. It started as clashes between supporters and opponents of the law, meant to expedite citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who had to flee due to religious persecution.
But soon, the violence spiralled. For more than four days, goons armed with iron rods, stones and hockey sticks took to the street, thrashing, burning and looting. By the end of it, 46 people were dead, and more than 250 were injured.
In Kolkata, the circumstances reflect the pattern. For weeks, the city has been witnessing several Shaheen Bagh-inspired sit-in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Chief Minister has been one of the vocal opponents of the law, and held several marches against it in Kolkata and the outskirts.
She has also stopped the exercise of the National Population Register – which the opposition says will contribute towards the National Register of Citizens. The NRC, taken together with CAA, would be used to target Muslims, the opposition has alleged.
The suggestion of the use of bullets against “traitors” and “terrorists” — used to describe protesters against the CAA and NRC — came from a huge section of senior BJP leaders and ministers in the run-up to the Delhi assembly election held last month.
But after the Arvind Kejriwal government returned to power with another overwhelming majority, Amit Shah had admitted the possibility that the hate speeches had contributed to the BJP’s dismal performance.